Monday, March 23, 2015

Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

After a couple of attempts to update Chandler's novels to the present day, (1969's Marlowe, based on The Little Sister, with James Garner and 1973's The Long Goodbye, with Eliot Gould), Dick Richards' Farewell, My Lovely, returned Philip Marlowe to the 1940s.  Previously filmed in 1944, (as Murder, My Sweet if you saw it in the US, but under the source novel's title in the UK), this version benefits enormously from Robert Mitchum's world weary performance.  The 1944 version has its merits, but I've always felt that Dick Powell's Marlowe was too much of a smart arse.  Mitchum, by contrast, gives us an incredibly laid back Marlowe, who feels more in keeping with the character of the novels.  Indeed, Mitchum seemed like he was born to portray Philip Marlowe - it is only surprising that it took so long for anyone to cast him in role.  Arguably, by the time he did play the role in 1975, he was far too old.  However, the film uses his age to advantage in the characterisation of Marlowe: 'I was tired and growing old'.

A tremedously well-mounted  production, which remains pretty faithful to the original Chandler novel, Farewell My Lovely is undoubtedly one of the purest Philip Marlowe adaptations ever made. Unlike Altman's The Long Goodbye, there is no attempt to reinterpret the source material in contemporary terms, or even, like Marlowe, to try and place the character in a modern context.  As the trailer indicates, it is a straightforward period adaptation of the novel.  Which is no bad thing, as it allows us to enjoy Mitchum's performance and Chandler's dialogue (much of which remains intact).  An excellent supporting cast includes a cameo from cult crime writer Jim Thompson, (author of, amongst other things, The Getaway and The Killer Inside Me, both of which have been filmed more than once), and an early appearance, in a small role, by Sylvester Stallone.   Clearly, Mitchum must have made an impact in the role, as few years later Farewell My Lovely producers ITC brought him back for a remake of The Big Sleep. Interestingly, the 1978 Big Sleep had a contemporary setting, was relocated to the UK and had Michael Winner at the helm.  Despite all that, it actually isn't that bad.  But nowhere near as good as Farewell, My Lovely, obviously.



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